Dave and I stood out like swollen sore thumbs amongst the crowd at the social club. Soaking in the tubs we began hearing music in the building next door and took it up on ourselves to go check out the scene. The drummer noticed us first and her concentration on keeping the beat was distracted each time she couldn’t help but look up at us, making eye contact followed by a warm smile and back to staring off in the distance to where only she could see the beat visualized. What we took as her husband was blowing on the harmonica, another gentleman on accordion up front on a tall stool and Slim on an electric hollow body guitar. No idea his name but he looks like a Slim.
Dave and I helped ourselves to the table of finger food and surprised they didn’t want any cash at the bar, only thing around here that was any sort of tender was a flash of a smile and a “How the hell are ya?”. The interior reminded me of the social clubs in Pittsburgh, a place for the community to gather and kick back and even hang loose a bit, have that other glass of wine or can of good old premium beer if you want. People lined along the wall either standing or sitting and the ones in the center of the room dancing up a storm as much as their stamina and hips will allow. The men gathered around the bar and the women talked and held forth like hens within their circle while the Bashford Band took command with their presence as Slim broke in singing Hank, “Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh my oh. Me gotta go, pole the pirogue down the bayou.”
These people are here because they want to be. Most likely they sold the house and bought an RV, told the kids and grandkids goodbye and left Winter behind choosing to snowbird in the southern Californian desert. And Bashford’s offers them that very opportunity to live the style but there’s just one catch, you must be 55 or older.
We met up with about 30 other riders for a small intimate rally at the Bashford oasis which features hot springs that the Military found under the surface a number of years back looking for oil. At least that’s what I heard and I wouldn’t doubt seeing that the American Southwest houses numerous proving grounds and a military presence along with the Boarder Patrol doing whatever they’re doing. Trains are numerous and attention to the tracks is what keeps this area alive. Little dried up towns that wish to blow away but the couple of remaining residence keep hold. It’s rather barren out here without the irrigation and the Salton Sea seems lonely and stagnant.
Longbeach Glenn houses a bit of local information and took us on a ride to see the scene and area. Heading east out of Niland, California Salvation Mountain is an ever ongoing work in progress of total dedication and a rather impressive structure of mud and hay and trash and trees and paint. A lot of paint and it seems they want more. Mainly a younger crowd of hippie-punks and travelers devoting time and energy to carry on preserving the huge installation of Americana folk art, they keep up with repainting, adding new messages and playing music in a circle. Though on a spectacular scale and with only DIY engineering, the message was a bit over bearing and redundant in the biblical sense which Dave refers to as the American Taliban, it was something to see nonetheless.
Down the road, Tom, Glenn, Dave and I entered Slab City, where desert rats live off the grid and the Sun soaks in and scorches the brain. We putted along the sandy roadways passing makeshift dwellings, campers and old derelict school buses and found ourselves at the art commune of East Jesus. Now don’t let the name fool you it’s not a bit like Salvation Mountain, total 180. An ensemble of desert trash abstract art of skeletal remains, busted glass, old cars, TV’s and mannequins. The guy who’s name wasn’t asked or given was an equivalent to a curator and took us around where the artists live in a maze of flotsam and jetsam resembling a full fledge distorted carnival fun-house. Stuff hanging all over the place and don’t try to figure out the message, a 3D collage come to life with residency. The most impressive feature of East Jesus was the communes power supply, the real deal utilizing the unhindered power of the desert Sun and storing the energy in a series of industrial batteries. We hung around a tad longer, laughing at the remark that getting artists to repair a hole in the roof was like herding cats and then the diatribes began to spew when the media was brought up and an absurd number was counted off of how many journalists and photographers and interviews that was dealt with. When Chris McCandless and Into the Wild was mentioned I lost what respect I had for our guide, “That dumbs deserved to die.” Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and ideas, but Mr. Slab, you are no different than what your agenda is against my man. At least McCandless had the real balls going out of his way not to belong, but to simply be with genre.
That was our ride around the area with the last stop at the mud-pots and then to the grocer in Niland where we encountered a boisterous stringy-haired sloppy and fat rat. He was behind Glenn and I, telling us how he’s the worlds best drummer and is playing at the Range that evening and how we should go no where else but there to witness his banging glory. I made my purchase and stepped outside gearing up to make the 15 miles north back to Bashford’s and the rat comes out reminding me about the show. He gets in the passenger seat with a couple of kids going ape in the backseat, “SHUDUP!” he hollers and is then distracted by an older hispanic man pushing the buggies back inside the store. “Hey Jose! Hey Jose!” Getting the older mans attention the sloppy rat gives a solid middle finger salute to the older gentleman who does the same back and mouths something to himself as the rat backs out of the parking lot, again reminding us of the show. I thought the two fellas knew each other, the rat and the Hispanic buggy pusher just messing around and that’s when Glenn came out of the store. “I was behind that dude in the checkout line and when the girl told him thanks and have a nice day he yelled FUCK OFF!”
Too much Sun.
Back at Bashford’s word got around that my front-end was fucked and it seemed a tech day was forming but I decided that Bike was moving just fine as is and no reason taking the chance of loosing a snap-ring or such in the sand when I can make the unexpected ride back to Phoenix and address it in Tom’s shop. I forgot about it and didn’t let it ruin the ride and went for a soak and had a drink.
The following morning everyone was gearing up to leave besides Dave and Tom and I. We had no reason to get back and instead played a few games of pool which Tom dominated, soaked a bit more and enjoyed drinks. The day was Stupid Bowl Sunday and there was to be a potluck to be had in the same building where Dave and I enjoyed the company and music of the residents. Tom joined us and we walked in, took a seat and acted to take interest in the game and took advantage of the spread of food. Nobody cared, it was obvious we lacked any kind of absorption in regards to the game and from the score, I take it was the same with the little number that did gather around the TV flanked by the image of The Last Supper which was forgotten to be taken down after that morning’s holy service. I overheard a couple of older women mention the word blasphemous but they didn’t do anything about it other than let it hang as we all did and we continued to eat Doritoes and Lil’ Weenies.
The ride back to Phoenix wasn’t in the equation until the collapse of Bike’s front-end, I planned on staying out and enjoy southern California but that’s the way things go. Bike rode better on smoother surfaces and the better road would of course be the interstate, I-10 east. The three of us made a good ride north along the Salton Sea, through bizarro Mecca, and then the wonderful but short Box Canyon which led us to I-10.
My gosh I don’t know what we were thinking but as soon as we hit the Slab we got on it. Hard. Dave led and Tom and I followed up with the intent of Phoenix before dark and our minds were set. 85MPH had to of been the average speed and my hard-head machine kept right up, riding her pegged and loaded down with too much of a load and with a wide ass that dragged air and ate up fuel milage. The last fuel stop was Blythe, California and back on the slab Dave was nothing but a speck on the horizon. Tom and I dropped back but kept a steady pace and at Goodyear, Arizona is where the first fuel reserve reared it’s expected ugly face. “Come on girl, not much farther.” I screamed into the wind. As soon as Tom led into the tall entrance climb onto the 101 the last of my fuel was burning up with only a couple of miles to Tom’s neighborhood with the Sun just about deciding it’s time to set as we pull into his driveway.
The following morning I went to fill up on fuel before addressing the forks and I put in 5.48 gallons in the tank. I consider myself lucky I wasn’t on the side of the merry-go-round of the 101 Loop that I seem to like too much.